Portis overshadows poor showing by Hogs

By: Wally Hall
Published: Friday, February 7, 2014
Arkansas freshman Bobby Portis celebrates during the closing moments of the second half of play against Alabama Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas freshman Bobby Portis celebrates during the closing moments of the second half of play against Alabama Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Arkansas’ basketball game against Alabama on Wednesday night was one of the oddest this reporter has ever watched.

With 14:49 to play, Ky Madden made his first field goal of the night. It gave the Razorbacks a 37-35 lead, but up to that point freshman Bobby Portis had 29 of the Hogs’ 35 points.

Not including Portis, the Razorbacks were 1 of 28 from the field. Portis had 12 field goals.

He finished 14 of 17 from the floor, which included a three-pointer, 6 of 6 from the free-throw line and set an Arkansas freshman scoring record of 35 points.

Mike Anderson played 11 other guys, and only one of them, Alandise Harris, was .500 from the field. He was3 of 6.

Take him and Portis out of the mix, and the Razorbacks made 5 of 34 (14.7 percent).

Yet, they won. As Nolan Richardson used to say, a rickety ride is better than a smooth walk.

Alabama was consistent, mostly bad, and the Hogs spent the first half playing down to the competition.

Former Razorbacks basketball player Ernie Murry got some folks’ attention -and maybe some criticism that should have stopped after Wednesday’s weird victory over Alabama - when he said Monday at the Downtown Tip-Off Club that this year’s Razorbacks team lacks toughness.

Murry is right, especially if you compare this team to the ones he played on in the early 1990s.

Mike Anderson’s teams have gotten tougher and more disciplined each of his three years, but the reason he was hired was to rebuild a program that had gone from the penthouse to the outhouse.

Offensive lineman Alvin Bailey (Arkansas Razorbacks), defensive lineman Clinton McDonald (Jacksonville) and Coach Pete Carroll (a former Razorbacks graduate assistant) weren’t the only members of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks with an Arkansas connection.

Chris Carlisle heads up the strength and conditioning program for the Seahawks, and he spent several years in Arkansas.

He received his master’s degree from the UA in 1997, but before that he spent six seasons at Blytheville (1986-91) and then became a graduate assistant in the Razorbacks’ strength and conditioning program.

He was the head football coach and strength coach for Subiaco Academy for four seasons before moving to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas.

He ended up the associate head strength coach at Tennessee before getting an interview with Carroll at Southern Cal. Carlisle told Carroll he was being treated for Hodgkin’s disease and was starting radiation therapy. Carroll still hired him, and they told no one until the disease was in remission.

Carlisle took over the Seahawks’ strength program in 2010.

There has been some speculation as to why Alabama was allowed to sign 26 players in its 2014 class.

The truth is, it was an act of kindness from Nick Saban.

Elisha Shaw, almost 6-5 and 300 pounds, was one of the most recruited defensive ends in Georgia last season.

In the preseason he suffered a severe neck injury and was told he would miss his senior year of high school football. Schools kept recruiting him until late last year when doctors told him he would never play football again.

Apparently every school but one suddenly wasn’t interested. He stopped hearing from all of them but one, Alabama.

Shaw will attend the University of Alabama on a football scholarship, but with a medical hardship so he won’t count against the totals.

Saban not only pulled in the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, he had the No. 1 heartwarming story.

Elisha Shaw may never play football, but he’ll get his education thanks to the sport and Nick Saban.

Sports, Pages 17 on 02/07/2014